by Dom Wiseman

Lord Howe Island is a paradise located approximately 350 nautical miles off the east coast of Australia. The islands beauty makes it one of the most alluring ocean cruises, yet many put it in the too hard, too far basket. There is no safe harbour between the mainland and the island.

For any who have the chance to visit, it is a wondrous place, with a coral lagoon teeming with colourful fish, towering mountains, extraordinary bird life and an environment certain to put a smile of the face of every visitor. The fishing and wildlife watching will keep you entertained for days on end.

In 2015, Riviera owner, Andrew Luxton completed a voyage around Australia aboard his Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge, Prime Mover. That trip was, according to Andrew, inspired by the stories of Ian Reynolds’ voyage around Australia in 2008 – at the age of 79.

Prime Mover at sea

Now Andrew has undertaken a new voyage inspired by Ian and his father.

“Dad talked about his voyage to the island for years afterwards,” says Andrew. “Inevitably it went on my bucket list.”

Andrew and Mark met about eight years ago through their mutual love of motor yachts and Mark shared some of the legs of Andrew’s circumnavigation.

“That experience instilled in me a desire to take my own Riviera further afield,” says Mark. “Until this latest voyage, Legend III and I had cruised in Western Port Bay and out to the islands of Bass Strait.

“When Andrew told me of his Whitsundays plan, I immediately put my hand up to travel in convoy.”

Travelling with friends and family on the voyage north, the pair decided to make a a stop at Pittwater in northern Sydney for a couple of weeks to sort their boats and gear and then on to Port Stephens on the New South Wales mid north coast to prepare for the run to Lord Howe.

“We carried bladders of fuel for this part of the voyage,” says Andrew. “We knew that Prime Mover and Legend III were more than capable of travelling the 350 nautical miles on the fuel they carry in their tanks, but we also wanted to travel north to Elizabeth and Middleton reefs. The additional fuel would allow us to be independent throughout the voyage, only requiring more fuel to return to the mainland.”

Prime Mover at Elizabeth Reef

An understanding of the weather is the key to a successful voyage. Andrew and Mark chose a weather window carefully and were rewarded with two to three metres swells and a following sea. Great conditions for the open ocean journey.

“We travelled at an average of 10 knots, operating watches of three hours on and three hours off with a good friend Richard Doyle. My sister, Katrina, also came along for the voyage.”

“We diverted a little south to take a look at Ball’s Pyramid on the way. It is an astonishing sea stack rising a little more than 550 metres straight out of the ocean.”

Legend III and Prime Mover in the lagoon at Lord Howe IslandThe journey across took about 37 hours with both vessels picking up moorings in the pictursque Lord Howe Lagoon upon their arrival. It was the perfect spot to await the arrival of their wives, Jayne Luxton and Janine Slocombe and friends who opted to fly to the island.

“We snorkelled and had a lot of fun in the lagoon with our new Aquayaks. These are compact, lightweight kayaks that fit easily on the foredeck of our Riviera and the folding paddles stow in cockpit lockers. Great fun.”

“We also did a lot of walking. It is hilly but – except for the two mountains in the south – not too hard going. I did call it ‘exercise island’ or ‘torture island’ after a long walk though.”

“But perhaps the best thing about Lord Howe is – mobile phones don’t work! Apparently the locals were offered a mobile tower a few years back and they refused. Best decision ever.”

Prime Mover and Legend III also took their crews to Elizabeth and Middleton reefs. At Elizabeth Reef they set about an informal fishing competition with a trophy awarded to the winning team.

“Our team, thanks to Sam Taranto, managed to hook a 22kg tuna at the reef and, after out-fishing the Prime Mover team, we took out the Promac Air trophy!

Sam, the gun fisherman aboard Legend III, with another catch

“Middleton is an incredible sight with the shipwrecks sitting high on the reef.”

After three weeks exploring the island and reefs, Prime Mover and Legend III were refuelled and the crews turned westward toward the mainland again, returning to Pittwater.